A DISGRACED former Tunbridge Wells teacher has been banned from classrooms after he used a homophobic slur to refer to Freddie Mercury, inappropriately touched a pupil, smoked in front of pupils and lied about his qualifications.
James Gardner, 41, a former Physical Education teacher at Broomhill Bank School in Tunbridge Wells, was found guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct” during his tenure at the school for special needs pupils, where he had worked since 2019.
At the three-day hearing by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), Mr Gardner, whilst listening to the radio in the school mini bus, had said of the late Queen frontman: “That man can sing for a f*****.”
In his written response, Mr Gardner said: “I realise this is an offensive word, but I didn’t mean to cause offence at the time. I didn’t mean it to come out like that, as I was saying it as a joke, albeit in extremely bad taste. It makes me cringe to think that I said it.
“I am not homophobic or racist in any way, but realise how my words were not acceptable, and I have deep regret as it is not my true character to speak like that.
“Although it doesn’t make it right, I said it to a member of staff in the front of the mini bus. We had a student in the back listening to his own music on his earphones, so I was not talking to him but to member of staff who made the complaint.”
The ex-teacher is also said to have engaged in “inappropriate physical contact with a pupil” during a football game.
After a pupil ran off the pitch upset, Mr Gardner is said to have shouted at the pupil and told her she had embarrassed him.
He is then said to have put his hands on her shoulders and “pushed her up against the wall and kept his hands on her shoulders for about two minutes”.
Mr Gardner said he only “momentarily and gently” touched the pupil to “encourage her focus”, but the panel deemed the behaviour was inappropriate.
He is also said to have offered a cigarette to a pupil and to have discussed smoking cannabis in front of pupils.
Mr Gardner has disputed all of his actions with the panel, except not disclosing that he had not finished his Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) and that he was sacked from a previous job.
In the report’s conclusion, the TRA said: “The panel finds that the conduct of Mr Gardner fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.
“The findings of misconduct are particularly serious as they include findings of inappropriate physical contact with a pupil, the use of offensive and/or homophobic dialogue and dishonesty.”
A prohibition order made against Mr Gardner means he is banned from teaching indefinitely in any school, sixth form, youth accommodation or children’s home in England from April 5.
Mr Gardner can ask for the decision to be reviewed in 2026.